Nichijou – Episode 18

And we’re back on the Nichijou train! Last episode was very important, as it finally saw the integration of Nano into the group of high school friends. I was extremely relieved to see that; the show’s tone had been suffering overall from Nano’s unhappiness, and letting the professor interact with people like Yuuko and Mai seems like an extremely good plan. The professor is frankly becoming one of my favorite anime characters – I’ve come to terms with the fact that a truly good Yotsuba anime will almost certainly never exist, but the professor seems to demonstrate it’s not actually an impossibility. Either way, Nichijou is here right now, so LET’S GET TO IT.

Nichijou

The first shot again emphasizes the passage of seasons, this time by focusing on the fallen leaves. These opening shots are some of the best times for this show to demonstrate the changing context of this world, before all visual information finds itself wrapped up in some gag. I’ve talked about this before, but Scott McCloud has noted a general tendency for Japanese media to prioritize these establishing and pillow shots far more than western media – the context is part of the narrative, which you could theoretically tie into an argument about how communal societies see the world versus individualist ones, but which has interesting repercussions for art regardless of its origins

In this case, Nichijou’s highly creative and eccentric humor is buoyed by the fact that it is a deeply Japanese production in terms of stuff like this. Nichijou has very few ground rules as far as its narrative goes, but a show like this doesn’t need to establish its solidity through its narrative, because it can rely on these constant environmental shots to do that instead

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Followed by another way this show establishes continuity – repeated threads used to frame a variety of jokes, like Daiku Coffee. Then there’s the trick where the lead actors of one skit show up as background characters in the next

The obvious multi-episode punchline – Mio has no trouble ordering. But man, these reaction shots

This joke relies entirely on our recent familiarity with the previous episode. Anime comedies can sort of get away with that more than American ones – many American shows are designed to allow you entry anywhere, particularly comedies, but late-night anime have a pretty dedicated audience. One of the advantages to KyoAni being stuck in this nonsense ghetto, I suppose

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I was just about to say “this science teacher really hasn’t carried her weight yet,” and then the show turns her scene into a great anticlimax. That natural instinct to sip down a drink that’s been poured too high is very relatable, and then using that to riff off her existing gag makes for a strong twist. Nichijou is generally very good at establishing a comic vocabulary and then trusting in the audience to understand punchlines that require fluency – as I said in my Lost Village article, all jokes rely on some set of expected cultural assumptions, and truly great comedies tend to go beyond this by defining their own set of internal expectations. Even the rule of three is an expression of this, with two takes used to establish a norm and the third used to prey on our established expectations

Ah nice, a cheery return to Artillery Tsundere. This one’s more of a visual invention gag than anything – the underlying joke is always the same, but the execution of exactly what she’s going to do is the reward. Like Hobbes always diving into Calvin at that door

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In this show, even some of the gags function like pillow shots. This tiny little crane game moment, something as relatable as the science teacher sipping the drink, placed to orient us back in conventional after-school mode from the absurdity of Artillery Tsundere

An entire segment predicated on the idea that Yuuko is continuously the punchline in her own life. Do your best, Yuuko

“Think of it as a practice run for real life.” The true value of Other Towns

I like the addition of… tiny children’s lessons? They seem like a reasonable buffer concept

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And another skit about the professor being an adorable kid, where she jumps from “I’m not sleepy” to asleep in just one sheep

Ah, this is Tsundere’s little sister. I guess I didn’t recognize her without a rocket launcher or minigun

She’s able to keep her tsundere to a low boil around family, apparently

Really great expression for Tsundere realizing the absurdity of her own cover story. And it makes sense to give her a family member who’s very comedy-savvy – she was basically established through that Yuuko gag as someone who “gets the joke” of Nichijou’s world, and now she’s being used to torment one of the most gag-focused characters here

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Helvetica Standard has a new title screen! It’s still not in helvetica, though

These books titles are incredible. “Big Fat Dog,” “Coat Club,” “Pigeon Mail”

Looks like the title screen has been accompanied by an entirely new aesthetic. Instead of the cut-paper look and fantastical non-sequiturs of the first half, this one has a more conventional look that’s heavy on filters and filmic angles. And this sequence seems to be a direct riff on Only Yesterday

This sequence is gorgeous. This is like the zeppelin sequence – a stylistic digression that’s so good at its alternate style, it’s actually better than most of the things in the genre it’s simply parodying

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IT’S JUST A FUCKING GUN

Really cute little sequence of the elementary school teacher being generous on quiz time. It must be nice to work on the segments of this show that have no job but to be charming

Mai and Yuuko have good times

A THIRD font that isn’t actually helvetica. Goddamnit, Nichijou

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We’re back to the usual aesthetic style, though – the thick white outlines, the crumpled-paper visual style, the goofy “Steamboat Willy” soundtrack

Nobody gives a fuck about Biscuit #2

Biscuit #2 runs on biscuits, making for unexpected drama when it comes to the professor’s snack time

Again using the interstitial shot to create a buffer between the first and second Biscuit gags. There’s some inherent comedy in the timing there, too – instead of actually making a coherent transition, the show seems to lose its train of thought and then abruptly remember it

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Fantastic expression work for the professor as she’s trying to get Nano interested in Biscuit. I love how her eyes flicker towards Nano as she’s putting on this skit

But of course, the professor’s interest in Biscuit is really constrained to Biscuit’s ability to make Nano think she’s awesome. And so we afford a brief moment of silence for Biscuit, the boy who runs on the professor’s snacks

The zeppelin returns!

Extrapolating on one of the key jokes of the prior zeppelin sequences – humanizing these henchmen who don’t even have faces, and who are defined entirely by the numbers on their hats. These moments of camaraderie and goofy ambitions naturally contrast against the nature of these characters

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I also like the disconnect of the princess actually looking like a princess, but all of her “henchmen” being dressed like janitors

“The quizmaster’s gone, too.” Some of these sequences are just so transcendent in so many ways. What an absurd little world this segment is presenting with such glorious aesthetic ornamentation. “The silly henchmen are jettisoned while taking their parlor game talents way too seriously” is one thing, but this show just brings these ideas to life with so many great visual and narrative details

Oh my god, the same goddamn punchline. This show is amazing

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AND WE’RE DONE! This episode was so friggin’ good, jeeez. This was up there with the top tier episodes of the first season – almost all of the major sequences were creative and excellent, the show pulled off a variety of new concepts, and all of the callbacks to old jokes actually improved on their predecessors. That last segment in particular is definitely one for the greatest hits catalog – what a terrific riff on the zeppelin setup. Thank you for existing, Nichijou.

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